PEORIA — A combination of Easter travelers and icy conditions brought a crashing halt to traffic flow on bridges crossing the Illinois River on Sunday afternoon.
Several major bridges in the Peoria area were closed after multiple accidents. The McClugage Bridge and Murray Baker Bridge closings were announced at about 3:30 p.m. and more followed as accidents occurred throughout the afternoon.
At about 5 p.m., the McClugage and Shade-Lohmann bridges were reopened. At 6:30 p.m., the Murray Baker and Cedar Street bridges were reopened. The Bob Michel Bridge was the only bridge connecting Peoria and East Peoria to remain open all day Sunday.
The Tazewell County Sheriff's Office said the accidents were caused by icy conditions on the bridges. Motorists were asked to avoid the bridges and use caution crossing bridges and overpasses.
According to the National Weather Service in Lincoln, the snow accumulation was less than half an inch in Peoria, but bridges sometimes have more dangerous conditions than other roadways.
“Bridges aren’t connected to the warmer ground temperatures so they tend to cool off faster,” said Daryl Onton, a meteorologist in Lincoln.
Battalion Chief Tom Carr of the Peoria Fire Department said about 20 vehicles were involved in the collisions on the Murray Baker, which carries Interstate 74 over the river.
"It's like the last lap of the Daytona 500 out there," Carr said.
Josh Bradshaw, community resource manager for Advanced Medical Transport, said five people were transported by AMT from the Murray Baker. According to a Peoria police dispatcher, one person from the Murray Baker crashes was in critical condition.
The initial report of the collision on the McClugage Bridge, which carries U.S. Route 150 over the river, estimated 15 vehicles were involved, but later Carr said only three were and the rest of the vehicles were just stuck in the backed-up traffic.
AMT transported six people to local hospitals from the McClugage, Bradshaw said. Carr said injuries on the McClugage were considered minor.
A three-vehicle accident closed the Shade-Lohmann Bridge, which carries Interstate 474 over the Illinois River. Three people were transported to a local hospital, but they had no injuries, said Brian Fengel, Bartonville police chief.
An accident reported shortly after 5 p.m. closed the Cedar Street Bridge, which carries Illinois Routes 116 and 8 over the river.
Sie Maroon, Peoria's assistant director of public works, said there were salt trucks on the city streets Sunday afternoon as a precaution, focusing on hills and overpasses. Sunday night he said the city streets were in good shape — wet but not very slick. A third-shift crew will be out in case the weather worsens overnight.
According to the National Weather Service, the temperature in Peoria could drop to 22 degrees Sunday night, making refreeze possible.
About 4:10 p.m., the city of Peoria announced a traffic collision alert. Motorists who are involved in crashes that cause no injuries and in which all vehicles are drivable, should exchange information and report the accident in person to the Peoria Police Department at 600 SW Adams St., within 36 hours after the end of the alert. About 4:30 p.m., the city of East Peoria also announced a traffic collision alert.
Peoria County issued a traffic collision alert about 7:15 p.m. Motorists in non-injury accidents should exchange information and report the accident in person to the Sheriff's Office within 48 hours of the end of the alert.
Kelsey Watznauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kwatznauer.